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Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (2)
There was hardly any reviews of Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund. I remember one in Dagens Nyheter, which I read at the time. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it for this article.
The DESS member Sven Tollin was working as a journalist at Svenska Dagbladet – the other main morning paper in Stockholm -and he offered an article to cultural section of the newspaper. Unfortunately, the cultural editor was not interested.
So the only main article about the event is the one written by Leif Anderson and published in the June 1963 issue of Orkesterjournalen.
And it is obvious that he liked a lot what he heard during Duke’s week at Gröna Lund. “The nights at Dans In were musical thrills beyond word”, he wrote, “and the band demonstrated a relaxed attitude, which showed that ‘the kids in the band’ love their work”. LA also thought that “a large benefit hearing Ellington’s orchestra play for dance is that during the span of a night one gets the opportunity to hear many numbers that the band rarely or never plays at concerts.”
Leif Wigh went into Dans In ready to take more portrait photos of band members. Here are some of his shots.
Also Jim Björk had his camera with him at Dans In and he says that he took a full roll of pictures there. Here are some of them.
Furthermore, Jim brought a new autograph book with him one of the nights and during the breaks, he managed to get the autographs of all the members of the band.
Jim was also present at the informal jamsession at the Arena Theater (Arenateatern), which was advertised in the newspapers.
It took place on Friday night after the end of the performance at Dans In and went on long into Saturday morning. As Jim remembers it, it was Roffe Ericson, Eddie Preston and Paul Gonsalves from the Ellington band, who took part in the jamsession together with some Swedish muscians, and possibly also Ernie Shepherd and Sam Woodyard.
“In the early morning Paul played an absolutely fantastic version of “I Cover the Waterfront” wearing a hat he had found in the storage room of the theatre. Someone taped it and it was included in a radio program a couple of weeks later.”
Bo Ahnegård was also one of the DESS-members, who went to Gröna Lund to enjoy Ellington. “I got the chance to dance to the band at Dans In”, he says, “and also to enjoy Alice Babs, who was there the same night. Duke invited her on stage and she sung a couple of songs with the orchestra.”
Thanks to Benny Åslund, Ellington’s performances at Gröna Lund were recorded. “I was permitted to record all the outdoor performances, and also, only two days left, the whole evening of 8Jun63.”
So on Saturday June 8, he set up his Tandberg tape recorder on a table next to the stage, gathered some friends around it and started to record when the band kicked-off.
Benny had a good stock of empty tape reels next to him and when one run out, he quickly put in a new one. Unavoidably, this caused some gaps in the recordings but they seems to be quite short and are a very minor nuisance.
As always, Duke’s condition for allowing this was that the recordings would not be issued commercially and for many years copies of the recordings circulated only among Ellington collectors and specialist. However, in 2014 Storyville issued the Dans Inn recordings on a two CD set and included one of the outdoor concerts in the 7 CD box “The Duke Box 2”.
Ellington at Gröna Lund June 1963 (1)
Duke Ellington spent the whole month of June 1963 in Sweden. He arrived at the Stockholm-Arlanda airport on May 31, where Swedish Radio made a short interview with him.
Ellington started his Swedish tour with gigs in the towns of Västerås, Örebro and Karlstad on June 1, 2 and 3.
Then on June 4, Ellington begun his week-long dance date engagement at the Gröna Lund amusement park in the center of Stockholm.
In his book “Gröna Lund – Stora scenen kl. 20.00”, Ove Hahn – the artistic director at the time – says that it was a dream come true to have Ellington to play for dance at the park.
Every night, the Duke and his orchestra, started the evening by playing a half an hour concert at 8 pm on the main outdoor stage in the middle of the park in front of a big audience.
The full outdoor concert on June 8 is available in the “Goodie of the Month” section of the website
Many had brought their photo cameras to the concert. One of them was the photographer and photo historian Leif Wigh. Here are his close-up photos of Duke, Russell Procope and Harry Carney on the outdoor stage.
Also DESS member Jim Björk was in the audience and clicked with his camera. “I was there every night”, he says. “I first listened to the concert on Stora scenen, which was about 30 minutes long. Then I went to Dans In to be able to sit close to the orchestra and enjoy the music.”
At the Ellington conference in Stockholm in May 1994, Ove Hahn talked about Ellington’s week at Gröna Lund.
He said that when it was announced that Ellington and his orchestra was going to play for dance at Gröna Lund, there was a lot of articles in the newspapers saying that it was wrong to use art as dance music. Therefore, Hahn was very happy when he already on the first night discovered that the band loved to play for dance.
He had of course a lot of contacts not only with Ellington, but also with the members of the band. He got to know most of them by their first names, but learned quickly that Johnny Hodges should be addressed as Mr. Hodges.
He liked Paul Gonsalves a lot – “the most wonderful man I ever met” – but did not go along with Sam Woodyard. “I found him most arrogant. We never quarreled but we simply did not like each other.”
In his presentation, Hahn also claims that Ellington approached him at the end of the week and asked if the engagement could be prolonged. Possibly he did this but it is a little bit surprising since Ellington was contracted to play in many places all over Sweden after the week at Gröna Lund.
At the end of the presentation, Hahn played some of the music recorded by Benny Åslund at Dans In during Ellington’s engagement.